Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review: Two Tales from Manky Valley by Frank Peña

This is the second book from the BecauseInter.net guy.

The BecauseInter.net guy! C’mon!

His first book Pyromaniac Pooka is just as adorable/wrong, but only has ONE story. Gawd. What the actual fuck is that (awesome and adorable) shit? In Two Tales from Manky Valley you get TWO. Holy shitballs. I know Frank, and so he sent me a free e-book for my reviewing pleasure. Usually this would have made me cry from my eyes (No trees died for this? What is wrong with you?) but because it’s illustration heavy it is actually really fun to read on a screen. Maybe I was so used to reading web-comics that it didn’t phase me, or maybe I’m cured of my Ludditeitis. Either way, I can vouch for the readability of the e-book. There is no real blurb (except the little ones I found on the website) so I will instead allow the author to describe himself to you.

Frank Peña is a raggedy old hobo who lives in North Carolina with twenty cats. 
If you see a guy in a bathrobe and fuzzy bear-feet slippers dancing to the overhead music inthe produce section of a grocery store, that is probably him. 
Approach with candy.

Perhaps that’s actually more informative than a blurb for telling you exactly what you can expect from Manky Valley. It is silly. I’ll talk about each story separately:

The Prettiest Pony and the Atomic Death Cannon
Follow The Prettiest Pony and her pals, Butterface and Brownbagger, on an epic adventure into a haunted castle, that results in a chaotic trail of rainbows, cake and charred skeletons all across Manky Valley. (From Becauseinter.net/mankeyvalley.html)

The main themes in this piece appear to be sexist talk of anthropomorphised horses, and death cannons. Largely the themes blend together to create something brightly coloured and vaguely repulsive, both visually and ideologically. Freud says the castle represents a vagina, so I guess bestiality as well, cause they go inside of one of them. LESBIAN bestiality. I mean, my word. The juxtaposition of The Prettiness of the Pony and the castle-shapedness of the vagina confuse our ideas of what is sexual and what is just a castle, or something. Maybe we all want to sleep with our parents, or each other. Maybe we all have genitalia that resembles listed buildings. It is very meaningful. 

Li’l Stabby Goes on a Hug Rampage
Learn valuable life lessons about what happens when Li’l Stabby–everyone’s favorite hug-addicted, magically animated butcher knife–is set loose in a forest full of snuggly critters. Can anything stop his cuddly reign of terror? Probably not. (From Becauseinter.net/mankeyvalley.html)

Unlike the gritty realism of the sexy pony story, this tale is overflowing with glittering whimsy.

Having seen the first twenty minutes of Pinocchio, the Plant-Watering Fairy followed standard magical-meddling protocol by rifling through the Lonely Old Lady’s possessions for something to animate.

The kindly aim of a passing fey to ease the suffering of an old woman begins one kitchen implement’s quest to learn more about life and himself. We learn valuable lessons like “Don’t piss on knives, especially if you’re magic!” and “Don’t hug knives, what the fucking hell is the matter with you?” I found myself moved to tears and a little bit of fear by just how carefully Lil’ Stabby’s rampage has been imagined. Freud probably thinks the knife is a penis, I’m pretty sure he says that. This is basically about a magical death orgy, if you’re Freud. Although I guess so is everything, if you’re Freud. So…why WOULDN’T you want to read it? Sort yourself out.

Really though, as far as ridiculous fun and sinister fairy tales go, these are super examples of both. They are also an excellent cautionary tale for loved ones about the dangers of too much caffeine. You could also perhaps point them in the direction of my twitter feed. There are reviews on the site where you can (and surely must) buy it rather than on the e-book I recieved, here they are:

“It’s basically a hate-poem to vaginas…[Frank] is like a modern Jack the Ripper, only with cartoon ponies.”- Reverend CDAAAH
Apart from the fact that it’s actually prose, nobody died and certainly certainly nobody was disembowelled on the streets of London, this is correct.

 “If a psychologist were ever to read this, he would lose his shit.” – Frank’s Mom

As I discussed, Freud would have a field day. Momcho is ever wise.

“O__________O…I don’t wanna be a derp face” –Lady Gracington von Holtburg

Well, quite.

In summary, I agree with everything I said and whatever else I said I agreed with, and it will make you laugh. Buy it!


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Book Review: The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder

I’m in the process of transferring posts from my old blog to here. Actual service will begin when I’ve posted my selection and can start thinking about new ideas. Please excuse broken links or images and my lack of a proper rating sytem.

He…hello? Are you all still there? No. I thought not. Excellent. This means no witnesses to my jolly rusty leap into this blogging business. I had other, grandplans for my old blog which did not come to be. I have formulated a new plan. I have decided to come back with a review of a book the follows one I was very fond of and got very attached to. Its sibling is a different creature and correspondingly it has a different blurb! HURRAH!

A clockwork man is abandoned in Trafalgar Square. A ghost displays a craving for diamonds. An aristocrat returns ten years after being lost at sea and instigates riots in London. The Rakes are indulging in seances. The Technologists are growing giant insects and transforming them into steam-driven vehicles. The British Empire’s capial is in chaos, and in the midst of it all, Sir Richard France Burton and his wayward assistant, Algernon Swinburn, are beginning to suspect that someone, somewhere, is up to no good!

The previous book is referenced from the outset making this more of a sequel than part of a series. I find books that are just interchangeable blocks on a vague timeline less impressive somehow than ones that weave themselves together over a series. We hear of John Hanning Speke, malaria, Africa and the rest. Like the last book too there’s a surreal blend of stuff that actually existed and stuff I’m really glad didn’t. The Tichborne Affair was a vague note somewhere in my head, as were most of the book’s secondary characters. Irritated as I am with Victorian London (apparently) being the place to be, I can’t help but be absorbed by some of its most interesting facets. World history is mentioned more frequently too, with an Ireland apparently over-run by Triffids and Europe being hit by the technologists as London has been. It has all the gorgeous familiarity of history and all the wonderful chaos of flux. It’s as satisfying in this book as it was in the last, but not at all repetitive or formulaic.

Burton is undoubtedly the main dude (or protagonist as I believe some people insist on calling them) but he never appears to have been forced into the plot simply because of that fact and is never determined for the spotlight. This is usually the case with protagonists, and can be either really irritating or really funny, even if it’s done deliberately or well. The balance is rarer. That is I’m rarely not annoyed by a protagonist at least a bit (because everything is always about them, isn’t it?) but Burton isn’t irritating. He’s cold, a little distant and maybe hard to relate to (I suspect why there are so many loveable secondary characters) but he’s not a tit. This fact makes for rewarding reading. 

My favourite parts of the last book returned this time around. There were the continued insane (and gross) inventions as Albertian Britain gets to grips with its shiny new Eugenics, The Rakes getting into their amoral japes (the scamps) and real life geniuses getting a bit fucked up. There is also finally the recognition in print that Babbage sounds quite a lot like cabbage, and for this alone the book is worth the cover price. The technology is fucking mental and stops just short of being actually horrific because it’s so cartoonish. Focusing too much on hollowed out animals brings a chap down, you know. Describing the eugenecists folly with cartoonish horror rather than just horrified horror made it clear that this is a morally dubious endeavour but not so clear that you wonder why Burton isn’t dropping everything to ensure that no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture uh…Albertian caper. There are also zombies. And POSH zombies.

What a Posh Zombie May Look Like

The bad things actually got worse. I distinctly remember reviewing the last book and ranting about a nurse with a gun who was the exotic eye candy for our recently single protagonist. Somehow Michael Madsen got involved. Look I don’t know, okay? I talked of how wonderfully the most downfally downfalls of our hideous imperialism had been smoothed over and changed so that society was just a tiny bit less prejudiced than it had been. However, I said, the women were contributing but treated as decoration. And, I said, this would not do. Ah, said the author, I’m mimicking the ways of the time. Fair enough, said I, but still, you know. And so it was that I addressed the issue of the sexism in the last book. WOULD that I had the content to cry sexism this time around. Would that I could, dear reader, but I cannot. The reason being is that there are a handful of women mentioned in this book in any amount of detail. One of whom is Mrs. Angell, Burton’s housekeepery housekeeper. The second is Florence Nightingale who has been kidnapped and therefore appears as a plot point and only once as a character with dialogue and Miss Mayson, a swan breeder who again is mentioned most often by other characters rather than appearing herself as a character. Madam Blavatsky features prominently later on, though in what capacity I cannot say for fear of spoilers. She is a wonderful character, and I would analyse her further and pick apart interesting morsels of gender related issues but it would be a MASSIVE FUCKING SPOILER. Suffice to say, that despite her being a fine character she does not negate the fact that I spent quite a lot of my time thinking “Does Sir Richard Francis Sexpot Burton even speak to women?” There are some prostitutes, a housekeeper and a nurse. I hate to be the person who bangs on about “what about the women?” I realise it gets dull and wearing and that not everybody cares. However, I only ask where the women are when there are no women. We are fifty percent of the earth’s population and there are about 8 of us in this 400+ page book. What the ACTUAL fuck? Like, really. Actually really, what the fuck?

The cover reviews are the same as last time, and I pretty much agree. Also, it won an award.

80%, 4/5, Pac-Man, whatever you like. Really good, anyway.
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Book Review: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’m going to be transferring select posts from my old blog over to here. This is a review I originally posted on 11/6/10. I’m still working on a new rating system, so do bear with me.
I bought this book just over a year ago. The timing seemed perfect. It was just before Halloween and I was taking a fascinating class called Film, Horror and the Body which among other things rekindled my love for what a lot of people like to call “wussy” horror, and what I call gothic horror. It touched on many thoughts, caused me to develop fascinating ones of my own and led to me getting a first in my degree because I did a presentation on the awesomeness of Sigourney Weaver in Alien Ressurection and wrote a 5000 word paper on vagina-dentata. Fast forward a year, I’m reading as much as ever I was and too poor to add much to my ‘to-read’ pile. I get to this book around the same time as Halloween approaches yet again and Mark Gatiss (yes, Lucifer Box’s daddy) is doing a stupendous series of documentaries for the BBC about horror movies. Enter Frankenstein. Enter Shelley. Enter sleepless nights and escorted walks through darkened alley ways. 
Nosferatu Via. Wikipedia. Yay public domain horror ^__^
The writing, my mindset and the micro-zeitgeist of late October in the UK made this the perfect read for so many reasons. The blurb:
“Life and death appeared to me the ideal bounds which I should first break through, and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.”
Frankenstein was Mary Shelley’s immensely powerful contribution to the ghost stories which she, Percy Shelley and Byron devised on wet summer in Switzerland. Its protagonist is a young student of natural philosophy, who learns the secret of imparting life to a creature constructed from relics of the dead, with horrific consequences.
Frankenstein confronts some of the most feared innovations of evolutionism: topics such as degeneracy, hereditary disease, and mankind’s status as a species of animal. The text used here is from the 1818 edition, which is a mocking expose of leaders and achievers who leave desolation in their wake, showing humanity its choice- to live co-operatively, or to die of selfishness. It is also a black comedy, and harder and wittier than the 1831 version with which we are more familiar. 
I haven’t actually read the 1831 version (I intend to) but this seems a good start in outlining the differences. Apparently the fact that Frankenstein’s lover is his cousin is deleted in the 1831 version so that they are not blood-relations. There are, I’m sure, many differences both blatant and subtle, and I will discover them on my own when I experience the more widely read version. For now though, I deal with this version. 
The narrative starts, as anybody who has seen one of the many film adaptations will know, with Robert Walton’s account of his snow-bound ship. This part is important because you get to see Frankenstein from an outsider’s perspective which makes him a more sympathetic character. Later in the book, his creation sees him as evil and he himself is tortured by the arrogance of his genius. From those perspectives he is pathetic at best. The Captain’s admiration of how educated and articulate and pleasant he is, despite his obvious troubles, reminds the reader that he is ultimately a brilliant man who made a terrible mistake. Dr Jekyll tapped me on the shoulder several times as I read.
The definite, overwhelming, message of the book is that Frankenstein’s genius runs away with him and causes all of his problems. He arrives at University having studied ancient masters of natural philosophy, only to be mocked. He is given a list of new, modern texts and “that application, which at first had been a matter of duty and resolution, now became so ardent and eager, that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory.” (Why yes, I was compelled by the beauty of the language to bookmark pages. Tyvm for asking.) It’s rather luddite in its outlook, and Shelley herself was said to be sympathetic with the luddites and their plight. As the blurb says, it’s a biting critique of those who let their power and inventiveness run away with them.
This point is made, and beautifully, by Shelley’s portrayal of the monster as a product of his circumstances. A huge section of the book is devoted to the monster’s point of view- his reaction to the beauty he sees in the world and in his own existence, as wretched as it is destined to become. His kindness and his sympathy for other human creatures is touching and childlike and very human. He does not begin his awful life as a monster. He is driven to it by the rejection of his creator and of every other human he encounters. He attaches himself to a family, hiding from them and doing vital chores for them in the night. He grows to love and trust them, and it is from them that he learns to speak and understand the world. When he eventually approaches them, they cast him out as readily as anybody else. His anger, his resentment and his thirst for companionship drive him to violence and monstrous acts. The parallel with the luddites is obvious. Their desperation is what drives them to acts of vandalism, not anything inherently violent in their make-up. Interestingly this was changed in some film adaptations where it was implied that Igor (who does not exist in the book), when sent to get a brain, accidentally picks up the one marked “insane” or “abnormal”, and what Frankenstein creates actually is a monster, and not just a very ugly human driven to evil acts by the world. It’s an important difference.
A creation of Frankenstein’s from 1910 Via. Wikipedia
 The horror element- and the one that, really seriously in real life, made me ask a person headed the same way to walk with me down a dark shortcut- was the way that Frankenstein’s mistakes haunt him in the physical manifestation of his creation. The lack of description of the parts sewn together or his actual physical features mean your brain gets to fill in its own horrifying blanks, and when Frankenstein considers disobeying the monster’s request, he will appear at a window, or in the shadows. His conscience is a reanimated corpse, following him around the world. This, more than the actual creation of the monster, is what made me act like a giant wuss. It’s chilling.
Movie Poster for the 1957 Adapatation starring Christopher Lee. Qualifies under Fair Use- scaled down copy of poster for discussion/critique. May contain nuts. Not intended as medical advice. Although you probably should try not to faint as a general rule.
This is another one of those books that had me highlighting gorgeous passages, and I loathe Shelley for having written this at 19 years of age. 
By degrees, I made the discovery of a still greater moment. I found that these people possessed a method of communicating their experience and feelings to one another by articulate sounds. I perceived that the words they spoke sometimes produced pleasure or pain, smiles or sadness, in the minds and countenances of the hearers. This was indeed a godlike science, and I ardently desired to become acquainted with it. –The Creature.
Guh. The creature is all of us, reacting to the world with disgust, fury and awe.
There are no cover reviews, for ‘tis a classic. This is quite long enough as it is. Frankenstein has become one of my favourite novels. It moved me, it terrified me and is at the same time a powerful political statement. It is the first science fiction novel, although it’s not quite as fanciful or unlikely as it was then. It was written by a 19 year old. FML.
Top Score, Full Marks, A+, 5 Stars etc etc etc.
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